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Former Trump Adviser Tried to Set Up Russia Meetings; Race in American Under President Trump. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 15, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:01] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But the reality here is, the president made the decision, his instinctive decision on Saturday to not address this initially. Yes, he talked to Steve Bannon on the phone. Yes, he talked to other advisers. But this is not something that you can blame Steve Bannon for.

Separately, about the reason that there is some anger inside the president's circle of advisers, including Jared Kushner, his son-in- law, Ivanka Trump, his daughter, they've been mad at Steve Bannon for a long time, but they believe that he has, for one, been responsible for some of the leaks against H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser.

You know, there's been this alt right uprising against H.R. McMaster here, and that is largely has some Steve Bannon fingerprints on it. So, we'll see if he maintains and sticks around here. But to conflate Charlottesville necessarily with Bannon, he has more issues than that, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Appreciate it. Thank you very much, panel.

Another story for you -- newly released emails reveal a former Trump campaign adviser repeatedly tried to set up a meeting with Russian officials, including Vladimir Putin. We're going to tell you who that adviser was, and what the meeting was supposed to be about and why it never took place, next.


[06:35:30] CUOMO: Defense Secretary James Mattis warning North Korea if it fires on Guam, quote, then it's game on. Hours later, North Korean median reporting that Kim Jong-un has reviewed final plans to, quote, envelope Guam in fire, but will hold off to see what, quote, the foolish Yankees do.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Iran's president this morning threatening to quit the 2015 nuclear deal within hours if the U.S. hits the country with more sanctions. Earlier this month, President Trump signed into law new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. Iran's parliament has since passed a bill outlining plans to, quote, counter U.S. terrorist measures in the region.

CUOMO: Former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos made at least six attempts in 2016 to set up a meeting between campaign officials and top Russian leaders, including President Putin. But campaign chairman Paul Manafort and others had concerns, so the meeting never took place. "The Washington Post" first reported this story. Papadopoulos is a self-described oil and gas consultant.

HARLOW: President Trump caving to pressure, finally calling white supremacists and other hate groups out by name. Critics, though, saying it is too little and it is too late. Is there anything the president can do to reverse the damage? We'll discuss, next.


[06:40:44] CUOMO: Any reporter with a cell phone had received calls from people around the president saying that we were wrong that he got it, that his initial response was measured because that's what the situation called for and you'd see when he stepped up now he would say the right thing. He would call out people and start to unite this country.

And yet right after his do-over, he retweeted propaganda from a right wing conspiracy theorist.

So, let's discuss what this means with CNN political commentator Symone Sanders, and Brunell Donald-Kyei, former vice chair of diversity outreach for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump.

Thanks to both of you for being with me this morning.

Symone Sanders, am I falsely combing or connecting these two events? Do you see it the same way that the president coming out in one moment and saying these groups, the KKK, white supremacists, they're bad, what they do is evil, what they espouse is evil and then this retweet from somebody who is pushing fringe stories like pizza-gate and Seth Rich. Do you see those as connected or no?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do see them as connected and I'll even take it a step further. If we don't want to look at the president's tweet, we can look at what he said yesterday about considering to pardon, seriously considering pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio who is a known racist.

So, I really think that this is an example where the president's rhetoric does not line up with his actions and again, I was happy to see him some out yesterday and forcefully and call out white supremacy, the KKK and neo-Nazis. But now, we need actions to back up those words.

CUOMO: Brunell, how do you see it?


What I will say is, as I stated yesterday, the president came out on Saturday and he blanketedly said, any bigotry on the left or the right is wrong, and yesterday when he came out with the statement specifically, you know, naming KKK and neo-Nazis. That was a cherry on top for me. And the love and compassion and the way that he expressed himself yesterday, it reaffirmed in me and so many others who have stood behind this president that he is truly taking his role as the leader of the free world seriously, and that he is the president of the United States, all of us.

And so, I think that we've got to move forward on this.


SANDERS: We just can't move past the fact that neo-Nazis and white supremacists killed someone on Saturday as a direct result of folks wanting to take down a statue of a general of the confederacy. We cannot move past that. Absolutely not.


DONALD-KYEI: You are so right about that. You're right about that, and my condolences --

SANDERS: So, what are you asking us to move --


DONALD-KYEI: -- of course, to our fellow American who passed, as well as those who were hurt.

SANDERS: No, no, she was not --

DONALD-KYEI: What I'll say is the president, the president has come out expressly against this violence, but also too, Ms. Symone, there were people on the left who are pouring urine on journalists, all types of violence --

SANDERS: People on the left were not white supremacists who killed someone.


DONALD-KYEI: I'm waiting for people to come out and condemn that as well. You can't just condemn one and not the other. You condemn it across the board.

CUOMO: Hold on, I don't want you to talk over each other because some of the points will get lost. So, let me just reset it this way, Brunell.

DONALD-KYEI: Absolutely, because I want to hear her.

CUOMO: Brunell, the two sides, the many sides argument, help us understand it a little bit better from your perspective, because I just want to be clear, do you see those who went there to oppose Nazis as the same as the Nazis?

DONALD-KYEI: I believe that first of all, you had a situation where you had people marching, the people saying white supremacists were marching and they had a permit and then you have these counter protesters come in. And any time you have a situation where you've got groups that are on extreme sides, there's -- like I said, there should be like --

CUOMO: See, that's the point I don't get. Are those extreme sides to you?


DONALD-KYEI: There should have been heavy police. Yes.


CUOMO: You see somebody who opposes white supremacists who want everybody on this panel to be eradicated from the United States as being equally as extreme as the white supremacists?

DONALD-KYEI: What I'm saying is that I don't believe that in black supremacy or white supremacy or Hispanic supremacy.

SANDERS: Oh, well --

DONALD-KYEI: I believe we should address any kind of hatred and extreme across the board.

[06:45:04] COUMO: All right.

DONALD-KYEI: It shouldn't be something that we are, you know, letting one get away with it more than any other. That's not how it should be.


CUOMO: I get it. I just -- I just wanted you to articulate the point.

Symone, respond to that, the idea that the white supremacists were equaled by equal extremists on the other side. Do you see that as what was happening in Charlottesville?

SANDERS: No, I think that is a false equivalency and I believe that is absolutely dangerous thing to say. This country is steeped and rooted in white supremacy. We are two years shy of the 400th anniversary of the first 20 slaves being brought to -- African people being brought to America as slaves.

So, this is, there's no such thing in my opinion as like black supremacy and Latino supremacy and Hispanic supremacy.

DONALD-KYEI: That's not true. Absolutely not true.

SANDERS: White supremacy has killed people in this country.

DONALD-KYEI: It is. We have it every day.

SANDERS: We fought a war because, a civil war in this country because people in the confederacy took up arms against the government because they believed it was their right to own people that looked like myself and Brunell because it benefited them economically. So, it is very dangerous that we tread into --

DONALD-KYEI: That's true.

SANDERS: -- we tread into revisionist history waters and when we attempt to water down what took place this weekend, these were white supremacists, white nationalists.

DONALD-KYEI: I'm not trying to -- I'm not --

SANDERS: What I'm hearing, Brunell, is when you equate, when you say there's no room for white supremacy, black supremacy, whatever supremacy, for me, that is an equation.


SANDERS: And lots of people out there in America, that is equating the two. That is not the same. People were lynched in their country by white supremacists. No one else killed anybody, used ISIS-style tactic this is weekend except the white supremacists. We need to call a spade a spade and a thing a thing.

DONALD-KYEI: If I may respond?

What I'm saying to you, Ms. Symone, is that there's a lot of deep hurt in this nation all across the nation, and we have got to move forward. We have got to get out of this -- not allow this miniscule part of our population to overtake all of what's going on. We've got a president in office who is working on immigration, working on healthcare --


SANDERS: Sympathizers with white supremacists.

DONALD-TRUMP: -- who is working on -- who is sympathizing with the entire nation. When Donald Trump ran for office, he stood up for people across the spectrum and people across the spectrum whether you like it or not, or whether the media wants to accept it or not, voted for Donald J. Trump, black people, white people, Asian, Hispanic, Muslims, Christians put him in office.

And so, I take offense to people saying that oh, well, he's a supremacist and only for white people. The core people that put him in office were across the spectrum and not white supremacists.

SANDERS: No one in this panel said that, I just thought the president --


CUOMO: All right. Let's hold it there, Symone, Brunell. Let's hold it right there. I want to take a break.

When we come back let's talk about where we are and where we think we're going to go from here because it could go in two different directions. So, let's come back and talk about it.

We'll be right back. Stay with CNN.


[06:50:39] CUOMO: All right. We're in the middle of an important discussion here. Let's bring back Symone Sanders and Brunell Donald- Kyei. They're talking about President Trump's delay in condemning hate groups and what the nature of this dynamic really is. And now, we'll fold this into how we move forward.

Brunell, you're a talented attorney and I understand you're making a case and we respect that here.

DONALD-KYEI: Thank you.

CUOMO: But I want to give you a point of clarification.

DONALD-KYEI: I respect you, too.

CUOMO: Thank you. Thank you for that.


CUOMO: Look, we're talking about what happened down there. Yes, there was a permit that a local blogger got for them to come and march. There was also a finding of police that it would be unlawful assembly because of the torches and the violence and the threats that were being made. So, we have to be very careful about ascribing any innocence to the motivations or actions by the white supremacists who were there because it doesn't seem justified.

DONALD-KYEI: Oh, I have no interest in defining innocence of any white supremacists anywhere ever.

CUOMO: I understand that. It's good to hear that.

DONALD-KYEI: I just want to make that clear.

CUOMO: Heather Heyer was not an equal opposite. Marissa Blair and her fiance were not equal opposites to white supremacists. They were down there because they stand against the same thing that you and Symone and I do, frankly, which is that hate has no place in this country, and putting some people above others --

DONALD-KYEI: It has no place.

CUOMO: So, when you say you had the extremists on both sides, that's what was going on and that's why the president was measured I don't think it's an accurate premise, because the Heather Heyers, the Marissa Blairs, her fiancee, the overwhelming number of counter protesters were there because hate is wrong, not because they harbor their own hate on the opposite side of the political spectrum. There's a reason that right wing extremists far outnumber left wing extremists in terms of investigations for terror in this country.

So, again, do you really see them as equal?

DONALD-KYEI: What I would say to you is this, Counselor. Down there, there was violence on both sides, and I'll also tell you, you had your own fellow journalists down there, had Antifa throw urine all over your fellow journalists and there was violence on the left side as well down there. So, that's all I'm saying. The violence and bigotry and hatred in any form should be condemned, and the president has done that unequivocally.

He has stated it A, B, C, D --

SANDERS: That is not true.

DONALD-KYEI: Nazis, KKK and anybody else who is a purveyor of hate. We are not, you're not, we don't stand with you.

CUOMO: Well, he said it in the second instance.


DONALD-KYEI: He said it nicely and passionately yesterday.

CUOMO: Symone, he said it in the second instance, not the first, even though he had over a day to think about what his first response would be, and then he retweeted a guy who panders to the right wing fringe right after he supposedly had his do-over as they're calling it.

So, where does this leave us? Where do you think because in Charlottesville, they've linked into arms and we're seeing these different people and groups come across this country, and get together to say we're better than these people? We're better than these white supremacists. Where do you think we stand?

SANDERS: You know, I think the problem with vague condemnation, as our colleague Jake Tapper tweeted on Saturday is that you leave yourself open for interpretation, and I think with the president and what I think, what I view is a delayed response, he has left himself open for interpretation with some of these white supremacist groups. You have folks have come together across the country and said hate has no place here, but other folks have also come together, some of these white supremacist groups. Other marches have been planned in Boston I believe and Berkeley, two that I know about for sure, Berkeley, California.

So I think we have to be -- this is a really important moment for America. Folks have to be very intentional and we have to use really, really specific language, and I continue to call out white supremacy because it is important that we understand that is what this is and white supremacy is dangerous. White supremacy has killed people in this country and if we do not call it out, if we don't stand up to it, if we don't take actions and actions meaning the Trump administration reversing a policy that removed white supremacists from being monitored by the counter extremism terror program, they need to go back on that list.

Actions mean not considering pardoning Joe Arpaio, who is a known racist. Actions mean, you know, not retweeting, you know, far-left fringe groups but also being really clear with these nationalist groups and noting we do not want your support and I don't think I've heard the president say that.

[06:55:06] There's reporting in the "New York Times" this morning that notes Steve Bannon was counseling the president over this weekend, even though he seems like he's on the outs, he was counseling him and saying you don't want to alienate even though this is a small group, these are still supporters and that's concerning.

CUOMO: Right. But, look, where Steve Bannon is involved, let's let him speak for himself. I'm out of time on this segment.

But let's be clear, all of us have to agree on one thing, there's one president of the United States. You can have a lot of advisers but you make up your own mind.

Brunell, we're going to have you back as always. Your voice is welcome here.

DONALD-KYEI: Thank you.

CUOMO: Symone, to you as well. Thank you for this conversation. Thanks for keeping it positive --

DONALD-KYEI: God bless you and God bless America and God bless Donald J. Trump, our president.

CUOMO: All right, be well.


HARLOW: All right. He is a hero and rightly being hailed as such for pushing his fiance out of the way as the car plowed into the counter protesters in Charlottesville. The couple who also was such close friends with Heather Heyer, will join us live.